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Linux Distribution Comparisons

Fedora 13

Simon O'Riordan

This is the current version of Fedora, an Open Source implementation from Red Hat.

  1. Installation was as easy as Ubuntu and as quick.
  2. Most of what the typical user will need (wireless, internet, email) will work straight away.
  3. It doesn't come with Open Office.
  4. It doesn't come with mp3 support. These both have to be added after modifying the software source repositories.
  5. Repository modification harder than Ubuntu.
  6. Depends on RPG modules not DEB.
  7. Installs via both YAM and APT.
  8. Online support is comparatively rare and often alpha-geeky.
  9. Personally, not an easy system to modify.
  10. Difficult to detect on a network, even harder to share with.
  11. Can 'see' Ubuntu shares, however.
  12. Unusually large footprint, 50GB 'root' partition out of a 250GB HDD.
  13. Familiarity in the Gnome desktop, similarities with Ubuntu 8.04-10.04.
  14. Has a nice software installation programme similar to Ubuntu. But in standard trim, there is practically no software available to install.
  15. My installation disintegrated after four days, lost the volume control icon and could not detect any sound hardware.
  16. Every boot up generated a 'kernel crash' error report. Never seen one before anywhere.
  17. At boot-up, much frustration due to Username being displayed long before the machine was ready to allow login. A practical freeze-up.
  18. Shutdown is in two stages; you have to logout to get to a page where you can shut down. Spammy.
  19. Network printing with CUPS is trouble-free.
  20. Webcams appear to work, but my test hardware has never been able to support Cheese video recording. No change there.(Has to be said, XP can handle it on this hardware).
  21. Hardware spec: P4 2.36 GHz, 1.5 GB Ram, 250 GB PATA HDD.

Kubuntu 10.04

Terry Coles

This is the current (30/5/2010) version of Kubuntu (KDE) 10.04.

  1. Initially I upgraded from 9.10, but I had various issues, most notably with display during startup.
  2. Then did a clean installation:
    • This was easy and took about 30 minutes, although the updates afterwards took somewhat longer.
    • I then had to reinstall all those packages that don't come as standard.
    • I had a fully working system in around 70-80 mins with the residue of packages being installed as I needed them.
  3. Generally an improvement in terms of look-and-feel and performance over 9.10, due to the later version of KDE included.
  4. There are still problems though:
    • I still cannot see the login menu. This has been discussed on the list and I only live with it because I only have this one distro on the machine.
    • Occasionally, it freezes just after boot-up, with the Kubuntu 'dots' on the screen. Generally works after a reboot.
    • It crashed big-time one day. I was writing a document in OpenOffice Writer and listening to a music track on Amarok, when the track started looping (just like the record had stuck). Everything else was dead. No mouse or keyboard responses, so I had to do a master reset. This is the first time I've had anything like this on Linux since the bad old days when graphics drivers and monitors didn't recognise each other; but they were always from boot-up.
  5. The default version of wine runs my only Windows App (Memory-Map), but still doesn't support one feature. I added the wine PPA and Memory-Map works perfectly now.
  6. Everything else I've tried works.

Kubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04 (KNE)

Terry Coles

I tested this as a replacement for the Xandros default distro on my wife's Asus EEE 900.

  1. It's easy to test, either by mounting the ISO in VirtualBox (which I did initially), or by writing the ISO to a USB Memory Stick using Startup Disc Creator. I have not installed this distro to the Asus for the reasons given below.
  2. Booting is straightforward and provides a rather unusual desktop experience. The original Xandros concept of having 'categories' of software is retained, but the Start Screen has icons for these instead of tabs.
  3. The main categories are slightly different to Xandros, consisting of Office, Education, Games, Graphics, Internet, Multimedia, System and Utilities. There is also a 'Bookmarks' Category, which appears to be the equivalent of 'Favourites'.
  4. There are also four direct links at the top of the screen to Konquerer, KMail, System Settings and Home (meaning Dolphin). For some reason, there is also a direct link to 'Contacts' mixed in with the Categories, although to be fair there seems to be some kind of sub-categorisation (eg 'Contact List', 'Role', etc) in there. I haven't explored what they do.
  5. The default package list is quite comprehensive with the installer for Firefox being held under 'Internet' and 3.2 being included by default.
  6. The real down-side as far as I'm concerned is the philosophy that has been adopted for launching and closing Apps. The initial Start Screen is quite straightforward, but once an App is launched it is hidden from view behind the Apps Window. At that point there is no obvious way to get back to the Start Screen without closing the App. Worse, there is no obvious way to close the App, because the 'Close' widget seems to have been omitted from the Window in some cases, leaving the only way to close the App being to select 'File/Exit'. In the case of the System Settings tool, I've yet to work out how to close it, because it is equipped with neither.
  7. Eventually, you work out that there is actually a hidden menu bar that is revealed if the mouse is pushed to the top of the screen and this allows a return to the Start Screen.
  8. I'm not a fan of the interface, and neither is my wife, so we haven't installed it on the netbook.

SimplyMEPIS 8.5

Simon O'Riordan

  1. Installation- I had to go to a Polish mirror, for straightforward downloads. Not well organised.
  2. Difficult. I tried to use the automatic reformat option for a default installation (over Fedora). It failed, and left behind a corrupted partition table.
  3. Fortunately, there is an excellent manual partitioner in the installer, practically the same as GPartedLive, which allowed me to rebuild the table, create a 5 GB root partition and leave the rest as an ext4 partition, a big one.
  4. Installation was smooth after this.
  5. Doesn't like legacy monitors much, but no actual faults, just a complaint on boot up.
  6. Setting up the wireless required a lot of fiddling with passwords, password managers and network managers, due to my inexperience with KDE.
  7. Support for mp3 already included.
  8. Repository management is easy, easier than Ubuntu.
  9. Amarok and Kaffeine needed to be installed for music and videos, but they worked well, straightaway. As usual, MPlayer was the not particularly good default.
  10. Support for Flash and Java was already installed on Firefox, even simpler than Ubuntu.
  11. Sometimes it will see Ubuntu shares right away, if not, the Ubuntu server can be added manually and it will see it.
  12. It is immediately visible and accessible from Ubuntu. Networking is fabulous, although you might want to install smbk4, as this provides good diagnostics if ever you can't get back into a network(ie if you need a password to mount the server, it will ask for one instead of just failing).
  13. Webcams may be a problem; my E3500 didn't work with Kdenlive or Cheese, although it was detected. Installing VLC is not fun, I don't recommend it, as for one thing it will cause removal of Kdenlive.
  14. Skype is available and my webcam (E3500) worked immediately and well, both video and sound. Very good Skype.
  15. A beautiful look and feel.
  16. Brilliant screensavers, I have mine set to a huge 1970's BBC-style analogue clock.
  17. Network printing via CUPS is fairly straightforward.
  18. Cheap (£7) wireless dongle apparently gets a 75% signal strength now, as opposed to 50% with Fedora. The 'limo' option D-Link dongle gets 100%.
  19. Comes pre-loaded with Open Office, like Ubuntu.
  20. Tested on same hardware as Fedora.

Ubuntu 10.04

Simon O'Riordan

This is the current(30/5/2010) version of Ubuntu (Gnome) 10.04.

  1. Installation was easy and straightforward, took less than 30 minutes.
  2. Upgrade can take several hours, potential warning messages pause upgrade, so it must be monitored to avoid wasting time
  3. Best to wait several days after issue, as bugs are often fixed in the first week.
  4. Relatively low footprint compared to Windows; a Vista-compatible hardware system will have a scorching performance in comparison.
  5. One bug - if you use a resource-intensive screensaver, X sometimes crashes after extended periods. I keep it light.
  6. Long Term Support means it will be supported for 5 years, and directly upgradeable to 12.04 in the future.
  7. Comes with Open Office.
  8. Network printing via CUPS is the easiest of all I've tested to set up, including and especially Windows. Just click the right buttons.
  9. Hardware (currently): Core Duo 2.5 GHz each, 2 GB Ram, 320 GB HDD(SATA), also a HP 2133 netbook.
  10. Webcams work. With this hardware even Cheese can record video. Soon to be assisted(hopefully) by the planned PiTiVi Video Editor recording option.
  11. VirtualBox (non-free) is what I currently have installed for trouble-free (eventually) virtualisation of XP Pro and Vista.
  12. I believe mp3 and mp4 support were built-in, but if not select the gstreamer (good, bad, ugly) options in Synaptic or the excellent Software Manager.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix 10.04 (UNR)

Terry Coles

Like KNE, I tested this as a replacement for the Xandros default distro on my wife's Asus EEE 900.

  1. It's easy to test, either by mounting the ISO in VirtualBox (which I did initially), or by writing the ISO to a USB Memory Stick using Startup Disc Creator.
  2. Booting is straightforward and provides a very intuitive interface. The original Xandros concept of having 'categories' of software is retained, but the Start Screen tabs have icons. They are also down the side instead of across the top.
  3. The main categories are slightly different to Xandros, consisting of Favourites, Files, Accessories, Games, Graphics, Internet, Office, Sound and System.
  4. The default package list is quite comprehensive with the installer for Firefox being held under 'Internet' and 3.2 being included by default.
  5. The User interface is much more intuitive than KNE and the main tab column remains visible when a Category is selected. It only disappears when an App is launched.
  6. The 'Close' widget is present when Apps are running, although it is an unusual place (on a tab at the top of the App).
  7. There is a status bar at the top of the screen at all times, allowing an instant return to the Start Screen or to Shut-down and other system-wide funtions.
  8. I like it and so does my wife. Having previously tested UNR 9.10 as dual-boot and KNE 10.04 from the USB stick. My wife has now wiped Xandros from the machine and installed this permanently.

Vector SOHO 6.0

Kevin Giles

I appear to differ from most in that I do not like to have the latest & greatest, my computer is a tool I want to be able to rely on so I prefer the proven. I also believe that the ideal OS should not need any computer knowledge to maintain so I refuse to learn anything that smacks of geek. Call me a gamma tester if you like but most MS-Windows users know little more than how to point and click so I look for Linux distros that require equally little knowledge. These are the ones I install to computers belonging to my fed-up-with-windoze friends. Having installed them I do not want my phone ringing with calls to fix this, that or the other - the system must just carry on working and doing pretty much what the their windows boxes did. Combining al this used to be a tall order but it can be done now. Mandrake almost did it, Kubuntu did it with Hardy Heron but then lost it big time. Now I've found amother that seems to do the trick.

I first tried 'Vector SOHO' a few years ago. I had been using Mandrake for a few years but had become fed up with getting caught in dependency hell and the change to Mandriva had made the distro too shaky for my purposes. I naively ignored a comment I had read somewhere about Slackware (Vector is Slackware based) being as admin friendly as a coiled rattlesnake and installed it. I cant remember which version it was at the time but I do remember being very impressed by a hassle free installation that left my computer running as smooth as silk and feeling as lively as a topnotch sports car. I remained impreessed until I started tweaking the system to my personal tastes and found it collapsing into a heap. Vector, at that time, almost totally lacked gui tools for admin and required you to be a commandline wizard for any sort of admin. So I cleared the rubble off my hard drive and moved onto Kubuntu Gutsy Gibbon. After upgrading to Hardy this was, to me, the perfect OS. I still love Hardy but was forced by a new mobo to upgrade to Jaunty. My experiences with Jaunty and Karmic left me realising that Kubuntu sails too close to the bleeding edge for me so I went distro hunting again. In the hunt for a replacement distro I decided I wanted a another deb based distro but was unable to find a KDE based one that would work with my new mobo. During the hunt I came across Vector again and thought I'd have another look at it. I am glad I did.

Vector SOHO is essentially Slackware, i.e. slick & solid, with much user-friendliness bolted on top of it. They have managed to create a KDE system that is almost as lively as Puppy. It does use KDE 3.5 instead of 4 but, IMHO, that is a big plus. It is reputed to run happily on low power hardware though I cannot comment on this as my computer is pretty high powered. Yes, that is right - a KDE system that runs happily on low power hardware. There are several editions of Vector, some of which require payment of about USD20. Though if you don't want the frills then it can be had by a free download. The SOHO edition is the Standard plus everything required of the modern desktop PC.

Vector SOHO appears to have great hardware support and everything just works (it is Slackware after all) and has kept on working for 8 months now. It has even survived my ham-fisted tweaking. The addition of three gui tools has made all the difference. KDE Control Centre is not restricted to KDE settings but also allows setting of other system items such as boot and network. Secondly there is 'Vasm Control Centre' which allows setup of much other system settings. This does lack the polished feel of a modern KDE tool but the functionality is good. Some of the VASMCC icons bring up ncurses based tools but these allow the settings to be made in a much safer manner than direct editing of the system files. Thirdly there is Gslapt, the package manager.

The package management is modelled on apt-get & Aptitude though it uses Slackware packaging. It seems to work as well as debs though with less polish, certainly better than rpms. Vector is pure Slackware 12 under the gloss so it is able to use the full Slackware repositories as well as Vectors own. Thus, though the repositories may not be as extensive as Ubuntus they are still pretty good. So far I haven't had to resort to building tarballs any more than I did with Ubuntu.

Thought it is rock solid and not cutting edge, it is not a lowtech distribution. At the time of installation, I also tried the current versions of Mepis & Fedora, but my Phenom x 4 mobo proved to be too new for them and they couldn't pick it up. Vector 'just worked' when I tried it.

articles/linux_distribution_comparisons.txt · Last modified: 2010/06/25 10:11 by terry